Thursday, 2 March 2017

What have I become, my sweetest friend?

This is a film review, of sorts. Two, in fact.

I remember when Transporting first came out in 1996. I have vivid memories of hanging out at HMV in the Bourke St Mall as a teenager, listening to the soundtrack at the new CD listening posts. I didn't end up seeing the film until 1997 - probably when it came out on VHS tape. I probably borrowed it from the Rowden White Library. I loved that place. It was like nothing I'd seen before - a dark, gritty, yet strangely charming and funny look at a bunch of youth living in Edinburgh, saying "f*ck you" to taking on the burdens and responsibilities of modern life, as if they had a real choice when it came to "choosing life". It ends with Mark Renton finally making a choice, that choice being to betray his friends and take the opportunity to find something better, with a ray of hope that at least he can turn his crappy life around.

And sure, I was young and impressionable, a wannabe-rebel who at that point had discovered my baby goth identity, with long hair and big coats, hanging out at the Student Union bar drinking cafe latte in the mornings and cheap wine in the afternoons. I never got into heroine, but could appreciate the bitter irony behind the mantra of "choose life". So began my years of bohemian student life, living in share houses and surviving from week to week on casual shifts and Newstart payments.

You could say that I also fell in with a somewhat geeky crowd. When the first X-Men film came out in 2000, we could hardly contain our excitement - this was the film that started a new trend of comic superhero films that would take itself progressively more seriously as they went along, with Ramie's Spiderman coming out in 2002, Nolan's Batman Begins in 2005, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2007 with Iron Man. Sure, there were a few flops along the way *cough* X-Men 3, Spiderman 3, Superman Returns, and all three Fantastic Four films *cough* but if it wasn't for X-men in 2000, with a bright young cast (even Hugh Jackman was only 31 back then!), a sassy script by Joss Whedon, and directed by Bryan Singer, who had made a name for himself earlier with The Usual Suspects. And it was an awesome cinematic experience, that I shared with a bunch of geeky student friends.

Flash forward to 2017.

Twenty years after the original Transpotting, we revisit the lads from Edinburgh. Renton's failed to make much of his life, Sick Boy is running one failing scam after another, Spud is a junkie who's lost everything, and Begbie is in jail. Returning to face his betrayed comrades, Renton attempts to deal with the past, and what ensues is a hell of a lot of nostalgia - which is very carefully and deliberately-layered, tapping into the audience's nostalgia of the original film, but also carefully reminding us not to view the past through rose-tinted glasses, and that letting a deep betrayal simmer for 20 years can turn former friends into deeply bitter enemies - scars that can never really be healed. Most notable is the reprise of the "choose life" soliloquy, but rewritten for the middle-aged man in 2017, wondering where choosing life ever got him in the end.

And tonight, I saw Logan. The Wolverine's story has finally come full-circle, and he is once again alone, all the X-men long gone, with the exception of Charles Xavier, who is losing control of his mind in his old age. Where the original film was colourful, camp and family-friendly, this is dystopian, bleak, and extremely visceral.

In both of these films, which I saw within a few days of one another, I can't help but feel that they were made for people like me - who saw the original films when we were younger, more hopeful, and in a more optimistic time. Now that I'm fast-approaching 40 years old, the joys of my youth are being revisited, forcing me to consider my ageing self, and what I've achieved in life so far. I've spent the last few years building my skills in strange and wonderful places around the world, but in doing so, I've also become accustomed to a more solitary life, and the friendships I've made have become more transient. I've learnt to become self-assured and independent, but lost my sense of community and belonging. Now that I've moved to Canberra, I'm not entirely sure what the future holds for me, either personally or professionally, and whilst I'm comfortable being out on a limb for a while, there comes a point where I have to ask - is this what my life has amounted to so far? Is this choosing life? Do I let myself grow old and bitter and more withdrawn from a society that's moved on without me?

Damn it. I need to go and watch some happier movies.